HC Deb 18 July 1838 vol 44 cc295-302
Mr. Aglionby

moved, that the Report on the Recovery of Tenements Bill should be further considered.

Sir E. Sugden

wished to know whether it were the intention of the hon. and learned Member to press the bill further during the present Session. The reason he asked that question was, the absence of several country Gentlemen who were anxious to take part in the discussion on the bill.

Mr. Aglionby

said, that it certainly was his intention to press the bill forward with all the energy he was possessed of, as it had already been postponed for three different Sessions in consequence of one of the most uncalled-for oppositions, that was ever heard of.

Sir E. Sugden

said, that such being the case, he felt bound to move, that the bill should be re-committed that day three months. He was sure, if the House wished to keep well with the country, it would not pass the bill, as it gave all the advantage to the rich and none to the poor. That might do very well in Turkey; but it would not do in a civilized country. According to the wording of the bill before the House, the very nicest points of law would be submitted to the consideration of two justices—men, who of necessity, were almost unacquainted with the laws of property. The very first use which would be made of the bill, would be the oppression of the poor, who were now in the enjoyment of wastes or manors. No doubt a great number of poor persons would be immediately turned out of such enjoyment, as, with the assistance of two justices, that might be done, at an expense of from 3s. to 4s. The object of this bill was, to give the power of turning out at the will of the landlord every humble tenant, and without any ex- pense to the landlord. He certainly did not expect such a measure as this would come from what was called the Liberal side of the House. The rights of the poor would be trampled on by this bill. He believed the bill proceeded altogether on a wrong principle, and he should give it his most decided opposition. He thought the hon. Gentleman ought to give more time for this bill to be circulated amongst the people, in order that their opinions might be ascertained. He could not see what necessity there was, for such desperate haste, to inflict so serious an injury on the lower orders of the people for the benefit of the rich.

Sir E. Wilmot

thought the evils anticipated by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Sugden) had been grossly exaggerated. He would be the last man in the empire, to give the magistrates a power which they ought not to have. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that magistrates ought not to be called on to decide on intricate points of law, where tenants in bail and tenants in fee and settlements were in volved. But they were to be called on to decide on merely trivial matters. The country, so far as he was aware, was almost unanimous in thinking this a fair bill.

Mr. Aglionby

congratulated himself on the speech of the right hon. Member for Ripon, for had he spoken at an earlier period, he (Mr. Aglionby) might not have been able to control his remarks on the misrepresentations which the right hon. Member had made of this bill, as well as on the tone, manner, and expressions used towards himself as a public individual. He was willing to throw himself upon the country and be tried by it, whether he was not as little likely to introduce any law savouring of Turkey, as the right hon. Member himself. He admitted the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the present was not the same bill that had been three times postponed; but why was it not so? Because the Select Committee to which the bill had been referred, had altered it. The bill in the present shape was not so favourable to the poor as when it was originally introduced, because under it the magistrates were made judicial instead of ministerial. He felt bound to deny the statements of the right hon. Member, that he had acted unjustly towards the poor man, his object was to protect him against the oppression of the rich. As the law at present stood the tenant would have in many cases a notice of forty-three days, but in all he must have thirty-one before he went out. He had applied to the right hon. Gentleman for his assistance upon the committee, which had been refused; he therefore thought it was most unjust and improper for him to indulge in such harsh language with respect to the labours of the committee. The Bill was intended to bring home justice to the poor man. The cottages of the poor landlord were as much entitled to protection as the mansions of the rich. He was anxious to protect the poor, and would consent to any amendment for that purpose in the Committee—but he would not consent to protect the dishonest man at the expense of one probably hot much richer than himself from whom he detained his property. In justice to himself he must say, that since he intended to bring in the bill he had taken the opportunity of sending the bill to every place throughout the country—not to landlords alone but to every mechanics news-room of which he had the slightest knowledge, and the only complaint he had heard against the bill was, that it did not go far enough for the protection of the small landlords. He trusted the House would allow the bill to be committed.

The Solicitor General

said, he was quite prepared cheerfully to submit to any unpopularity that might be supposed to attach itself to this bill, which he did not hesitate to say was a great improvement. It was, indeed, a bill quite as much calculated for the benefit of the poor as for that of the rich; as respected the former it must tend to encourage the building of convenient tenements for the occupation of the labouring and poorer classes. As the law stood with respect to the rich man, or landlord, it was absurd; the only chance a landlord now had of getting possession of a cottage forcibly withheld from him, after the termination of the demise or letting, was to bring his action of ejectment against a person who, if defeated, had no property sufficient, in 99 cases out of 100, to pay the costs, much less the damages that might be awarded. The bill, in effect, intended to do justice cheaply for the poor man and expeditiously for the landlord, and would mediate between them when they became litigants for the possession of the tenement in question.

The House divided on the original motion:—Ayes 112; Noes 7: Majority against the amendment 105.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Jermyn, Earl of
Bagge, W. Kinnaird, A. F.
Baillie, Colonel Langdale, hon. C.
Baines, E. Lascelles, W. S.
Barnard, E. G. Lefevre, C. S.
Barrington, Viscount Lemon, Sir C.
Bellew, R. M. Lushington, C.
Blackstone, W. S. Mackenzie, T.
Blake, W. J. Martin, J.
Blennerhassett, A. Maule, hon. F.
Bowes, J. Mildmay, P. St. J.
Bramston, T. W. Murray, J. A.
Brodie, W. B. Muskett, G. A.
Brotherton, J. Pakington, J. S.
Brownrigg, S. Palmer, G.
Bruges, W. H. L. Parker, J.
Bryan, G. Parker, M.
Campbell, Sir J. Parker, R. T.
Chalmers, P. Pattison, J.
Chute, W. L. W. Pechell, Captain
Compton, H. C. Peel, Sir R.
Corry, hon. H. Philips, M.
Crawford, W. Praed, W. T.
Crawley, S. Pusey, P.
Curry, W. Richards, R.
Dalmeney, Lord Rushbrooke, Col.
Darby, G. Salwey, Colonel
Douglas, Sir C. Sandon, Lord
Ebrington, Lord Sanford, E. A.
Egerton, W. T. Sheppard, T.
Elliott, hon. J. E. Sibthorp, Colonel
Estcourt, T. Sinclair, Sir G.
Estcourt, T. Smith, B.
Fector, J. M. Stanley, E. J.
Filmer, Sir E. Stanley, Lord
Freshfield, J. W. Strutt, E.
Gladstone, W. E. Tennent, J. E.
Gore, O. W. Thornley, T.
Goulburn, H. Townley, R. G.
Graham, Sir J. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Grant, F. W. Vere, Sir C. B.
Greene, T. Verner, Colonel
Grote, G. Vigors, N. A.
Hardinge, Sir H. Villiers, Lord
Harvey, D. W. Waddington, H.
Hastie, A. Wallace, R.
Hawes, B. Warburton, H.
Hector, C. J. Welby, G. E.
Hodges, T. L. Wilbraham, G.
Hope, hon. C. Williams, W. A.
Howard, P. H. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Howick, Lord Wodehouse, E.
Hume, J. Wood, C.
Hurst, R. H. Wood, G. W.
Hurt, F.
Hutton, R. TELLERS.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Aglionby, H. A.
James, W. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
List of the NOES.
Baring, H. B. Collins, W.
Fielden, J. Style, Sir C.
Hayter, W. G. TELLERS.
Morris, D. Sugden, Sir E.
Somerset, Lord G. Wood, Captain

House in Committee.

On the first clause being put.

Sir R. Peel

hoped the same measure of justice would be extended to the landlords of tenements above 10l., as was by this bill to those of tenements under that sum. He considered it highly dishonest that persons should hold possession of property, in despite of their landlords, after due legal notice had been given to quit, and had no sympathy with tenants of any class who would so act. Upon that ground he considered that a summary process, if necessary, in case of a small tenement was equally so in that of a large. This process might be different in the two cases, but the principle was the same, whether the tenement was one of 10l. value, or of 100l. He certainly could not see any reason why the constituent body were to be doubly privileged, and, if this bill were to pass as now proposed, there could be no doubt that it would confer on them another privilege besides the elective franchise. He for his own part, did not see what the amount of the rent had to do with the principle of the measure. So far as the principle was concerned he undoubtedly approved of the bill, but then instead of fixing the limit at 10l., he, for his own part, would prefer extending the jurisdiction to 20l., or even to a higher amount.

The Attorney General

was glad to find that this measure had met with such general approbation from all sides of the House, and he admitted that the present state of the law on this subject was a disgrace to the judicature of the country. Although he concurred in what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet opposite he still was disposed to think that it was better to proceed gradually than to risk anything by effecting too great a change in the first instance. He approved of the limit as to the amount of the rent fixed by the first clause, but he had no hesitation in saying that if the measure should be found to work well he would have no objection whatever to extend the jurisdiction at some future period to 20l., or even to a higher amount.

Mr. Harvey

entirely concurred in all that had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. The amount of the rent was in truth wholly immaterial, and for his own part he could not understand why the principle of the bill, if it were to be called into operation at all, should not apply to the lofty palaces of the rich as well as to the humble cottages of the poor. By this measure they were clearly establishing one law for the rich and another for the poor, and to such a proceeding he must strongly object. Now with regard to the amount of rent, the only point to be ascertained by the magistrates would be whether or not the relation of landlord and tenant subsisted between the parties, and if that fact were once admitted it was clear that the amount of the rent, whether it were high or whether it were low, would be altogether beside the question for decision. Whether, therefore, the rent were 10l. or 1,000l. the principle would be the same; but of course if the fact of the payment of rent were disputed, then a question with respect to the right of property would arise which could not be determined by the magistrates but must be referred to the ordinary tribunals of the superior courts. This bill, he admitted, would effect a partial good; but so averse was he to bit and bit legislation that he would not object to its being referred to a committee up stairs, in the hope that next Session they would be able to pass some comprehensive measure which would settle all disputed points and place the law of landlord and tenant on the clear and intelligible footing on which it ought to stand. Now there was a hardship which he knew professionally, and from personal experience often occurred. It not unfrequently happened, and that, too, by the connivance of the tenant, that the whole property on the premises were swept away under an execution a few day before quarter day. This was done to defraud the landlord of the quarter's rent, and as he could not distinguish between such a case and the fraudulently taking of a chattel, he would wish to see protection afforded to the landlord in such cases. He was, however, glad that the subject had been taken into consideration by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and if the right hon. Baronet would extend the jurisdiction in the present case, not to 20l. but 1,000l. he would support him.

The Solicitor General

was of opinion that they ought not to exceed the limit fixed in the clause, and he stated this without any wish whatever that the poor should be placed in a different situation from the rich. He was satisfied that the bill would be as much an advantage to the tenant as to the landlord.

Sir E. B. Sugden

said that, according to his own argument, the hon. Member for Southwark ought to vote with him. The hon. Member for Southwark contended that no difference should be made between the rich and the poor, and it was because this bill would establish such a difference that he (Sir E. Sugden) objected to it. The rights of the poor would be committed under this measure to the decision of an inferior tribunal, and as this was an arrangement to which the rich would not submit, he felt it to be his duty to oppose it.

Mr. Pryme

contended, that the whole course of English Legislation for centuries had been to establish cheap tribunals, where the amount in dispute was small; but where the sums were larger, they were submitted to a more expensive and august tribunal. This had been the course of legislation from the days of Alfred down to the present time. So much for ancient law and ancient customs, of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Sugden) was at all times the powerful advocate. Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say, whether the amount in dispute was 5s or 50s, or 9l. 19s., as by this bill, that the subject in dispute should be determined by the same jurisdiction as if 1,000l. were concerned? In modern times they had had the Trespass Bill, under which Magistrates had the power to adjudicate on cases under 5l. and therefore the principle adopted by the bill was in accordance with both ancient and modern legislation. If this bill worked well, it might be hereafter extended; but it was no argument against the measure to say, that it could not remedy every grievance.

Mr. Hawes

was prepared to support the bill as it stood. At the same time he should like to know whether the House would go with him in raising the amount to 20l. He knew the inhabitants of large towns and of their vicinities were desirous that such should be the case; and if the bill were limited to 10l., it would be almost wholly confined to rural districts.

Sir Robert Peel

had not suggested that the sum should be 20l. out of any hostility to the bill, but was prepared to propose, that amendment if he could feel sure, that he should not, by doing so, endanger the He did so on principle, and he should be equally ready to vote for property of 1,000l. being subjected to a summary jurisdiction. He thought he had therefore better at once move an amendment, and would therefore propose the introduction of the words "property rated at a sum not exceeding 20l."

Mr. Estcourt

as a Member of the Committee, had been in favour of the reduction from 20l. to 10l., in order to get rid of the supposition, that there was any political object in view. He had, however, no objection to the amount being fixed at 20l. and should therefore vote, if necessary, for the proposition of his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Darby

wished to know from the Attorney-general whether or not, under the clauses, a magistrate might not be called upon to decide a question of title. He also thought great oppression and injustice might be inflicted under this bill, on those who might be ejected from cottages which had garden ground attached.

The Attorney General

said, in answer to the question of the hon. Member, no doubt a case of this sort might arise, A landlord might die, and the tenant might question the son's right as to his legitimacy, but in 999 cases out of every 1,000, the question would be merely one of common tenancy. He certainly was not wedded to fixing the amount at 10l. and would therefore withdraw his opposition to extending the sum to 20l.; at the same time he must deny the observation, that had been made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that this was a law for the rich and not for the poor. By the existing law a sum under 40s. was recoverable in the county courts, and under 5l. in the courts of conscience, and no one would pretend to say, that therefore, it was intended by this bill, to make one law for the rich and one for the poor. On the same ground, that those inferior jurisdictions had been formed, it was intended, that cases of ejectment from tenements or property held under 20l. should be referred to the decison of the magistrates, because the expense of ejectment under the existing law was so great.

Amendment of Sir R. Peel agreed to.

The bill went through the Committee.

The House resumed, the Report to be received.